The fantastic new musical adaptation, Sylvia, at the Old Vic, tells the story of the suffragettes’ struggle to get the vote.

The production uses hip hop, soul, rap and funk to tell the story of the Pankhurst family (Emmeline, Cristabel, Adela and Sylvia), their divisions and ultimate success in attaining the vote for women.

Sylvia Pankhurst played a huge role in the suffrage struggle.

The musical tells of the forced feeding of hunger-striking women serving prison sentences. The forcing open of the mouth and feeding down of a rubber tube was truly barbaric.

The police constantly beat up and abused the protesting women.

An interesting little-known fact is that a major proponent of this torture was King Edward VII.

It is difficult to comprehend that what was a reforming Liberal government of the time - it brought in the pension, national insurance and trade councils - should behave in such a terrible way to more than half the population.

Fortunately, the women won out, securing the full franchise in 1928, but what a long struggle.

Sylvia Pankhurst played a key role but was also active in the Labour movement, working nationally and internationally for workers’ rights. She also of course lived in Woodford for 30 years of her life, whilst much of her activism emanated from the East End.

What the suffragettes’ struggle for the vote should teach us is how precious that right is.

It is the one right that everyone has to have some say in how they are governed

The power to kick out any administration, no matter what.

Those that cannot be bothered to vote or pride themselves on refusing to take part insult the memory and sacrifice of those who struggled so hard to win that right.

Some may think there is a lack of choice as to who to vote for - but it was the right to have that choice which is so important.

If the right were as insignificant as some suggest, why the struggle to win the vote in the first place. Also, why do so many, once in power, spend so much time trying to disenfranchise different groups in society ?

We owe a huge debt to those who struggled across the world, many giving their lives to get the vote - all that is asked today is that we exercise that right.

  • Sylvia runs at the Old Vic until April 6